Pyne’s Folly

When Alaska was purchased, it was almost universally condemned as Seward’s folly. Funnily enough the action strengthened both Canada and the United States of America whilst weakening Russia and England.

But the same cannot be said of Christopher Pyne‘s folly. To recap,  to encourage the Senate to pass the latest version of his contentious university funding legislation, he is threatening to cut university research funds. The condemnation has been quite vociferous including doubts raised by Government backbenchers. It would be too easy to join the long queue condemning him. Pyne’s folly really is in the long-term to weaken the House of Representatives and the Liberal and National parties whilst strengthening the Senate, the ALP, the Greens and the too many to mention Senators that hold the balance of power.

Clearly, Pyne has created an atmosphere where this particular bill will not be passed. Again it has shown the incredible failure of the Government to negotiate. With the exception of perhaps the carbon and mining tax repeals, the Government simply does not have the skills to negotiate with stakeholders, the 2014 Budget being the prime example.

But what Pyne and the Abbott Government have overlooked are the long-term effects of the short term tactics of bullying and threatening (that is linking passing one piece of legislation to another). Christopher Pyne foolishly has started a process that will almost certainly backfire on him as follows.

First, due to these bullying and threatening tactics, the Senators who hold the balance of power will have even less contact with him due to these tactics, in which case legislation will take even longer to pass if at all.

Secondly, Labor, The Greens and sufficient Senators could group together to also tie the passing of Government legislation to a broader agenda or no agenda at all, either of which couldn’t favour the Government. Already this has been hinted at through the potential tabling of a motion safeguarding both the research funds and jobs. Pyne’s most response to this has been to decouple the link between deregulation and research funds (with the cuts to funds occurring later). But it’s too late.

In either case, the Senate and House of Representatives ultimately will be deadlocked. All because of Christopher Pyne.

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